Elon Musk threatens to sue Microsoft for using Twitter data for its AI

In this post:

  • Twitter CEO Elon Musk threatened Microsoft with a potential lawsuit claiming the software giant used his company’s data to train OpenAI
  • The threat came after Mashable and other news outlets reported that Microsoft intends to remove Twitter from its advertising platform
  • Musk’s threat is the most recent indication that data ownership is rapidly becoming a contentious battleground in the generative AI race
  • Musk calls Bill Gates’s understanding of AI limited

On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Elon Musk threatened to sue Microsoft, accusing the software behemoth of improperly utilizing the social media company’s data to train its artificial intelligence model. Musk’s post came after Mashable and other publications reported that Microsoft was planning to remove Twitter from its advertising platform, which allows ad buyers to manage all their social media accounts in one spot.

Elon Musk goes after Microsoft

On April 19, Elon Musk tweeted that it was “lawsuit time.” Musk’s plan to sue Microsoft is in response to allegations that Microsoft will cease supporting Twitter across its online social advertising tools, Smart Campaigns, and Multi-platform on April 25. According to Musk, Microsoft mined user tweets to train its AI-powered applications.

Wired reported in March that Twitter’s API fees have escalated from $0 to $42,000 per month and, in some cases, are priced at over $200,000 per month. Microsoft did not provide an explanation for why it was discontinuing Twitter support.

Elon Musk claimed that Microsoft is “demonetizing” Twitter data by eradicating advertisements and “then selling our data to others.”

Microsoft’s decision to abandon Twitter means that its customers will no longer be able to access their Twitter accounts through its tools and generate, manage, view, and schedule Tweets. According to the company’s website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn remain accessible to Microsoft customers.

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Source: Microsoft

Microsoft’s decision follows Twitter’s discontinuation of open access to the Twitter API versions 1.1 and 2. The enormous price fluctuation has severely impacted academics. Since 2020, more than 17,500 academic papers have been founded on Twitter data. Now, they have been priced out of the market.

Musk calls Bill Gates understanding of AI limited

Elon Musk sent the tweet in response to another Twitter user’s post about Gates’ involvement in OpenAI and his overall bullish attitude towards AI. “I remember the early meetings with Gates,” Musk tweeted. “His understanding of AI was limited. Still is.”

In a blog post published last week, Gates discussed how artificial intelligence could revolutionize the workforce, healthcare, and education. Since 2016, Microsoft’s founder has been meeting with the OpenAI team, and he most recently conferred with them in September. It is uncertain if the 2022 meeting was in his capacity as a part-time Microsoft advisor.

Elon Musk and Bill Gates have an extensive history of rivalry. In 2020, the first disagreement between the two billionaires occurred over the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same year, after Gates announced his decision to purchase a Porsche Taycan instead of a Tesla, Musk stated his “conversations with Gates have been underwhelming.” 

The CEO of Tesla has also accused Gates of shorting the automaker’s stock and even made light of Gates’ weight.

Data ownership becomes a contentious battleground in the AI race

Elon Musk’s threat is the most recent indication that data ownership is rapidly becoming a battleground in the race to develop generative AI. Big Tech firms are attempting to develop cutting-edge AI models, such as OpenAI’s GPT, while data owners are attempting to halt them or charge for their content.

Microsoft creates its own large language models (LLMs) and licenses OpenAI’s models. Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI in an unusually structured agreement last year. Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI before quitting its board in 2018. Elon Musk has recently expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s transition from a nonprofit model to a highly valued business driven by Microsoft.

For training, LLMs like GPT require terabytes of data, much of which is taken from websites like Reddit, StackOverflow, and Twitter. Social network training data is valuable because it captures informal, back-and-forth talks. Data owners are beginning to make demands as these new AI models make their way from research labs and colleges into the corporate sector.

For instance, Reddit announced earlier this week that it would charge businesses for access to its programming interface used to input Reddit user conversations into AI training software. Universal Music Group stated this week that such training of artists’ music would constitute “both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law” in response to a viral video of a song that purportedly used artificial intelligence to imitate the rapper, Drake.

Moreover, image stock database Getty Images is prosecuting Stable Diffusion for allegedly stealing its content to train its artificial intelligence image generator. Musk announced in December that Twitter would “pause” OpenAI’s database access. Additionally, he has announced intentions to develop his own large language model for one of his companies, TruthGPT.

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